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On the threshold of adulthood: a new approach for the use of maturation indicators to assess puberty in adolescents from medieval England

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Lewis, M., Shapland, F. and Watts, R. (2016) On the threshold of adulthood: a new approach for the use of maturation indicators to assess puberty in adolescents from medieval England. American Journal of Human Biology, 28 (1). pp. 48-56. ISSN 1520-6300

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.22761

Abstract/Summary

Objectives: This study provides the first large scale analysis of the age at which adolescents in medieval England entered and completed the pubertal growth spurt. This new method has implications for expanding our knowledge of adolescent maturation across different time periods and regions. Methods: In total, 994 adolescent skeletons (10-25 years) from four urban sites in medieval England (AD 900-1550) were analysed for evidence of pubertal stage using new osteological techniques developed from the clinical literature (i.e. hamate hook development, CVM, canine mineralisation, iliac crest ossification, radial fusion). Results: Adolescents began puberty at a similar age to modern children at around 10-12 years, but the onset of menarche in girls was delayed by up to 3 years, occurring around 15 for most in the study sample and 17 years for females living in London. Modern European males usually complete their maturation by 16-18 years; medieval males took longer with the deceleration stage of the growth spurt extending as late as 21 years. Conclusions: This research provides the first attempt to directly assess the age of pubertal development in adolescents during the tenth to seventeenth centuries. Poor diet, infections, and physical exertion may have contributed to delayed development in the medieval adolescents, particularly for those living in the city of London. This study sheds new light on the nature of adolescence in the medieval period, highlighting an extended period of physical and social transition.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:40857
Publisher:Wiley

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